We have more ability than will power, and it is often an excuse to ourselves that we imagine that things are impossible.
François de La Rochefoucauld

It’s a new year, with no mistakes. In the few days left of the Christmas break thoughts will inevitably turn to the term ahead and how we can do whatever it is we do better. Just in case you’re not sure how to turn this vague sense into a reality, here’s a handy list of off-the-shelf resolutions you might like to use or adapt.

  • Follow the school rules – they are there for everyone’s protection. Opting out actively undermines your colleagues.
  • Expect all students – even ‘kids like these’ – to behave well and try their best; nobody rises to low expectations.
  • If something needs doing, just get on and do it. Don’t wait for permission, just do it to the best of your ability.
  • Students learn what they think about – prepare teaching sequences which require students to think about what you actually want them to learn.
  • Think carefully about what you choose to do; you can only do one thing at a time, and there is always an opportunity cost.
  • Turning up every day is the most important thing you can do; everything follows from this. What can you do to ensure you’re healthy enough to make it a possibility?

School leaders

  • Before you add something new to teachers’ workload, consider what you will take away. Piling on the pressure leads to anxiety, under-performance and burnout.
  • Never do anything because you think it’s what Ofsted want. Try asking, What would happen if we didn’t do this? What difference would not doing something really make?
  • Try assuming that teachers are doing the best they are able for the students they teach. If a teacher is struggling, consider what could you do to actually make their life easier instead of more onerous.
  • Expecting teachers to sacrifice their home lives to manage their workload is not only unreasonable, it’s unethical. What could you do to model a healthy home/work balance?
  • Never send an email when a polite conversation might do the trick.
  • Say “thank you” as sincerely and as often as it needs saying.

None of these suggestions are panaceas, but possibly they could contribute to improving the system for all involved.
Happy New Year.